Professional Standards Board has numerous vacancies to fill

The Professional Standards Board, which plays a key advisory role to the State Board of Education in the area of teacher credentialing, is seeking qualified professionals to join its work. Nearly four months into its 2021-22 session, the board is operating with six of its 21 seats still vacant: four educator positions and two higher education and school administration positions. (The two “qualified lay person” positions are currently filled). Additional terms will expire in June.

Applications for the positions can be found here.

Serving on the PSB offers practitioners an opportunity to influence policy on a matter that affects student outcomes, school culture, the teacher pipeline, and other important issues. The board meets monthly and devotes much of its time to the state’s 75 educator endorsements — the subject matter or content area on an educator certificate —  each of which gets updated at least every 10 years, said Steve Appleby, who sits on the PSB as Director of the Division of Educator Support and Higher Education for the Department of Education. Working in committees, the board members consult with professionals in the field, as well as incorporate legislative changes that affect requirements and certification for educators. The PSB also works with the Bureau of Credentialing to make recommendations on rules related to licensure. 

The voices of educators working in the field are critical to conversations around credentialing and highly valued. For example, PSB member input has influenced recent decisions around testing requirements for teachers. 

The Professionals Standards Board at its December meeting at Granite State College. Photo by Sarah Robinson

“There’s a big movement nationwide to eliminate standardized testing for teachers,” Appleby said. “But I would argue that we have no other measure. … The PSB has discussed lowering testing requirements several times over the past three years and has not been in favor.”

At the same time, The PSB has worked to make the licensing process more efficient. Working with the Bureau of Credentialing last year, the PSB recommended a set of changes to pathways to licensure for educators, all of which the Board of Education ultimately adopted. 

“The changes simplified the process and closed loopholes and allowed the Bureau of Credentialing to process applications much quicker,” Appleby said. “The driving force was, how do we make the process more efficient without losing its rigorous nature?”

PSB members do not necessarily need high-level expertise in matters of licensure and governance, but they should have a passion for the work, Appleby said. 

“We’re looking for professional educators with a real desire to improve the system, to improve how we credential educators and what the requirements are, and keep our standards high,” he said. “We have high standards, and we want to maintain those standards.”

Board members serve three-year terms with a two-term limit, in accordance with RSA 186:60. The Bureau of Credentialing has so far received 11 applications for the eight positions that were initially vacant this year and is still accepting applications, Appleby said. Completed applications are forwarded to the State Board of Education for review.

“As we get applications, we just pass them along, and then as (the State Board’s) agenda permits, and as they have time to reach out and talk to applicants, they appear on their agenda,” Appleby said. “Sometimes it can take a few months.”

The high number of vacancies on the PSB stems at least in part from the COVID-19 pandemic. No new members were approved in 2020. New members approved for seats vacated last year will serve the usual three-year term. 

So far this year, the State Board of Education has confirmed two new PSB members, David Latchaw, Principal of Maude H. Trefethen School in New Castle, in the category of “higher education and administration” and Donna Couture, ELO Coordinator for Winnacunnet High School, in the category of “teachers and education specialists.”  (A second application in that category was tabled due to outstanding questions, and a third was denied.)

Couture said she became interested in serving on the PSB last year after being invited to speak at one of its monthly meetings about the prospect of developing work-based learning credentials.

“I saw that they had a lot of vacancies, and I thought, wow, this would be a good opportunity,” she said. “One of the things that seemed to be lacking on the committee was someone in the career counseling, work-based learning area. I thought that would be a good perspective to bring to the team.”

Couture applied last April and inquired about her application two or three times before learning she’d been confirmed.

She hopes to get involved with the board’s exploration of credentials for extended learning opportunity (ELO) and work-based learning professionals. Currently, there are no certification requirements for such positions, which are becoming increasingly common in schools around the state. 

The State Board of Education meets on Thursday, December 9. The board will discuss an application that was tabled at its last meeting, but no new applicants are on its agenda.